Egypt and the Nile
Tour of Jerusalem, Israel
March 19 -
March 26, 2006
This trip started
off with Owego having a snow fall of several inches
morning of the 19th. In spite of mother nature my plane left
County Airport almost on time. My first stop
was Dulles Airport in Washington,
then a quick flight to JFK,
before boarding an Austrian Airlines flight to
Vienna at 6:25 pm.
After a short stop in Vienna, it was off for a three hour flight
to Tel Aviv, Israel.
Lastly, there was a short bus ride to our hotel in
I checked into the hotel at 5:30 pm. It was the end of a long
two days of flights to reach Israel.
optional tour was to Israel, the main tour was to Cairo,
Egypt and included
a Nile river cruise.
The sun rising over
Jerusalem, it promises to be a warm, pleasant day.
Our tour bus left the
hotel at 7:30 am for the Mount of Olives.
The view from the
mount was awesome on this cool morning.
The domed building in the middle of
the photo is Mosque of Omar.
A view of the
cemetery burial grounds just below the top of Mount of Olives.
It can cost
$50,000.00 to be buried in the Mount cemetery.
The local vendors
were out in force this morning sell everything
from maps of the holy city to
camel or donkey rides.
The Puerta de Oro or
Golden Gates through Jesus entered the
holy city as he moved to the site of
The Church of St.
Mary Magdalene (Gold Domes), it was built
by Czar Alexander III between 1885
I am stand in front of
The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus
endured his agony before he was
The rock where Jesus
it is believed to have knelt in prayer.
This spot is encircled by a crown of
hammered steel thorns
within the altar of the Church of All Seasons.
My next stop was at the
Old City of Jerusalem. We entered the city via the
Dung Gate leading to the
Western Wall Plaza. It was a crowded
area as this is the high season to
There were groups of
tourists being briefed in the area of the West Wall.
Many tourist wore
colored hats to make it easy to identify them.
Our group did not have this
type of attire.
The Western or
Wailing Wall is in the background.
Many pilgrims were praying at the wall
It is considered the most holy place by the Jewish religion.
excavated in the area near the West Wall Plaza.
There were many excavated
ruins in and around Jerusalem.
The famous Zion Gate
leading into the Jewish Quarter of the old city.
The gate had the hundreds
marks on the walls left by bullet and cannon shells
from Israel's War of
Independence in 1967. They are left there as a
remembrance of the war
struggle by the Israeli people.
This photo was taken
at the Ninth Station of the Cross, we walked part of the
length of the
Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrows. This route, followed
by the world's orthodox
Christians, led from the Antonia Fortress, where
Jesus appeared before
Pilate and was condemned out to Calvary
this site was outside the city walls
at that time.
The spot for the Ninth Station is near the Ethiopian
and is the spot where Jesus fell the third time. The dome in the
background is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
This is where the last
five Stations of the Cross are located.
We had lunch in the
old city and a chance
to go shopping.
That made all the old folks on the trip happy. We returned
to our bus
via the Jewish Market which is very much like Istanbul's Grand
This is the entrance gate to
Tower of David museum.
This museum chronicled the history of Israel.
Ancient ruins have
been excavated inside the tower area.
I am standing next
to a statue of a member to the Templar Order that
is part of one of the
displays in the museum. The displays depicting the history
of ancient and
modern Israel were very well done.
Jaffa Gate at the
southern entrance to the old city.
The gate is very near the Tower of
Thus ends a busy and
tiring first day in Israel.
It was Back to the hotel by 4:00 pm for a nap before
Wednesday awoke as a
bright and sunny, warm day.
I have a full day of sightseeing ahead of me.
Our tour group
will travel by bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth, The Sea of
and lastly the Mount of the Beatitudes. There were numerous
stops along the way. We toured many miles north of Jerusalem this day.
Out first stop after
traveling west and north from Jerusalem.
This included some time traversing
the Jordan Valley we arrived at Nazareth,
In Nazareth, we visited the Church
of Annunciation. Nazareth is the childhood home of Jesus.
The Church of
the Annunciation is a fairly new structure and
has several interesting
stained glass windows.
Standing in the
court yard of the Church of the Annunciation.
We left Nazareth for
our lunch stop a Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shores
of the Sea of Galilee.
This is a photo of their famous fish restaurant
where we had lunch. I had
their noted St. Peter's fish that was served
with head and tails intact.
It was a delicious meal. After lunch, we had a
tour of their grounds
including stops at the dairy barns, ostrich pens
and the banana growing
plantation. They are very self sufficient kibbutz,
including the catching fish on
the Sea of Galilee.
plantation. There was acre after of acre of netting
covering the banana
trees. It was explained that the netting helped to
keep the humidity inside
the banana plantations thus
causing the trees not to need extra watering.
As we drove away
from the Ein Gev Kibbutz we passed by the Golan Heights.
At the north end of
the Sea of Galilee we passed over the Jordan River.
Our next stop was
Capernaum, where we were able to view extensive
ancient ruins of the fourth
century White Synagogue.
Capernaum is located on the north shore of the Sea
The flowering trees were in full bloom.
Standing among the
White Synagogue ruins.
A statue of Saint
Peter. The excavation area under the church
is said to be of Saint Peter's
Our next stop was at
Tabkha, one of the most important site's of Christ's
Galilee occurred. Above is a photo the altar of the
Church of the
Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. In the center under
table is a rock that is the supposed spot where Christ stood
when he fed
5,000 followers with five loaves and two fishes.
Sea of Galilee from
On the top of the
hill behind The Church of the Multiplication is the
famous Mount of the
Beatitudes. This is also know as the
Sermon on the Mount location. This
sermon famously began with
Christ's blessings or beatitudes. Above is a
photo of the Church of the
Beatitudes. It is a fairly new structure and
commands a view of the Sea of Galilee.
Thus ended a very
long touring day for me.
Our bus left the hotel at 7:00 am and we returned
to the hotel
at about 6:30 pm. It was a great day of sightseeing!
It's Thursday, March
23, 2006 and I am heading off for another day
of sightseeing adventures.
Our hotel is in the background.
It is 8:00 am and we are going to visit
museums this morning.
Our first stop was at the Caprice Diamond Factory and
No bargains there and everything was very overpriced.
I did not
even take my camera into the building.
This is the entrance
building of the Yad Vashem Memorial to the Holocaust.
This is the main
building at the museum. It was a very modern building in
held many exhibits concerning the Holocaust.
There were many audio visual
presentations incorporated into the various exhibits.
There were many
interesting sculptures located on the ground of the museum.
I am standing in the
entrance to the Children's Memorial which is a
candle-lit cavern in which a
looped tape recites the names of the
estimated 1.5 million children
exterminated by the Nazis.
This was a truly moving experience for me.
memorial was to the teacher Janusz Korczak,
who would not abandon his students
when he had a chance to escape the Holocaust.
This was a truly
special Museum to visit and one should not miss it if they go to Jerusalem.
Out next stop of the
morning was at the the Israel Museum,
is the site of the Shrine of the
Book. This shrine is the location of
some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The
building housing the
scrolls was very distinctive in its design.
Unfortunately no cameras were
allowed in the Museum grounds or buildings.
It was very exciting to see
and learn more about the scrolls and their part
in understanding the history of the bible.
The last adventure
of the day was a visit to Bethlehem.
This Palestine city has been
closed to visitors for several years but recently
travel restrictions have
been relaxed. It was a surprise to our group
when we were told that a
visit to Bethlehem was possible
and that we could enter the Church of the
The border between
Israel and Palestine. We had to have our passports
with us in order to
enter Bethlehem. Interestingly we were not checked
Bethlehem. Leaving Bethlehem my passport
only got a quick glance fro
the border guard.
Our tour group
heading to the Church of the Nativity.
Church's small Door of Humility.
Entering the Grotto
of the Nativity under the church.
This silver star is
set in the floor over the sport where Christ is said to have been born.
Nearby in the same
grotto is the spot where Jesus' manger was located.
Church that is next to the Church of the Nativity.
On the right side
of the nave, stairs descend to the grottos of the Holy Innocents,
and St. Jerome. The traditional Christmas mass from
Bethlehem is broadcast
worldwide from St. Catherine's each Christmas eve.
After the visit to
the Church of the Nativity, we were taken to this
store to shop for relics
of our visit to Bethlehem. It was a very
interesting visit in that the
store's owner provided us with bus
transportation and a guide for our visit
By now its was after
five o'clock and it was time to return to our hotel
and enjoy our dinner.
Thus Thursday's day of sightseeing ends
with many memorable memories.
Its day 5, Friday,
March 24. We are up and on the road early as
today is our optional trip to
the Dead Sea. Above is our bus that
we have ridden in since arriving in
Along the way we
drove by some beautiful scenery like these mountains.
It was a very dry and
uninhabitable environment for miles.
This is our first
stop of the morning was at large rocky plateau is
Masada (Hebrew for
fortress). This fortress is the symbol of Jewish freedom
To reach the
fortress we had to ride a cable car from the Masada National Park Visitor
The only other way to the fortress was by hiking up the Snake Path
that wound its way to the top.
You can see part of
the path as it reaches the top of the plateau.
This is a view of
the Dead Sea from Masada. It was a bit hazy but still an awesome sight.
The fortress was
built by Herod, the Great King and he used it as a refuge.
This is a view
of some of the ruins that have been excavated
by the National Park staff.
There was a casement wall around the plateau,
along with storehouses, large
cisterns, that were ingeniously filled with
rain water, barracks, palaces
and an armory.
One of several
cisterns located within the fortress.
They defenders living in the fortress
had ample food and
water storage to last out a long siege.
A view toward the
Northern Palace. This site witnessed the most dramatic
episodes in history
when centuries ago on this gaunt plateau,
a group of freedom fighters fought
against the might of the ancient Roman Empire.
The Zealots defending the
fortress decided to kill themselves rather than
submit to the oppressor's
tyranny. This struggle has
played a role on Jewish history over the many
A last view from the
fortress. It was a very interesting start to our day's tour.
After lunch, we had a
quick stop at the Kibbutz where
minerals taken from the Dead Sea are used to
make skin care preparations.
The store showed us a video about their
After our stop at
the Ahava store, we went to the Kibbutz's Mineral Beach
for a swim in the
Dead Sea. The swim was really a float as the
water was too dense for
swimming. It was also loaded with minerals
which we were cautioned not to
get in our eyes or ears.
No swallowing of the water either! The above sign
about where you can go when covered with black mud.
These people are
covering themselves with mud from the
bottom of the Dead Sea. It is supposed
magical therapeutic powers. It just looked very messy to me!
This is my friend
Doc Moore having a floating good time in the Dead Sea.
Our last stop of the
day was at Qumran National Park.
Qumran is the site
of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
The cave where the
scrolls were hidden is in the middle of this photo.
The Scrolls have
provided a voluminous body of Jewish documents
dating from the third century
B.C. to 68 A.D. These scrolls demonstrate
the rich literary activity of
the Second Temple Period in Jewry and
sheds insight into centuries pivotal
to both Judaism and Christianity.
Above is the water
way that led to the cisterns of this radical ascetic
and reclusive community
that lived at Qumran.
This optional day
trip was great fun, where else could I see adults
covering themselves with
mud and floating on water and
also visit a very beautiful ancient fortress
It is a little
before six on the last full day available for sightseeing in Israel.
day broke with clouds and a rather cool breeze blowing.
I am off on a last
optional tour to Caesarea and Haifa.
Our first stop of
the day was at Caesarea, where was a small
village used by the Phoenicians
in their maritime travels along the
coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
When Herod, King of the Jews,
and Tributary to Rome, received Judaea as his
he built a deep-water port which he named Caesarea.
Above is the outside
of the large Greco-Roman theater that Herod had built at Caesarea.
This is a view of
the 13,000 seat amphitheater that Herod built
which was used for sporting
events and as a horse race track.
I am standing in front of the amphitheater.
It was a windy day on the coast
of the Mediterranean Sea.
The surf was surging
and made for great waves!
A view of the Roman
Wall which was part of the fortifications of ancient Caesarea.
I am standing in
front of aqueduct system that Herod had built to
bring water to Caesarea
from the mountains which were nearby.
They are thinking about repairing it
for use in the near future.
After lunch we went
on to Haifa which is Israel major sea port
and third largest city. Above is
a view of the city and harbor.
This is a view of
the beautiful Baha'i Gardens found on the hillside of Mt. Carmel.
Baha'i temple is in the background of this photo.
Haifa is the world
headquarters of the Baha'i faith.
Our last stop on
this tour was at Mt. Carmel at the
Carmelite Pilgrim Center, Stella
Maris. The altar pictured above
was over the crypt of the prophet Elijah
who confronted the prophets of Baal.
Thus end my first
trip to Israel. It was a wonderful trip.
I saw sights that I never
imagined I would get a chance to travel to.
The various biblical spots were
moving to experience.
Tomorrow I fly on to
Cairo, Egypt for the regular part of this trip to
Ancient Egypt and the Nile
River tour. I have decided to split the
tour into two parts due to the
large number of great spots
visited and the large number of photos I have
Look for "Ancient
Egypt and the Nile, The Visit to Egypt" trip listed on my web page.